Within the worldview that he has deliberately fostered, both electoral outcomes would demonstrate the validity of one or other of his pronouncements: On the one hand, a Trump victory will be taken as evidence of his genius and the greatness of the American people; on the other hand, a Trump defeat will be interpreted as evidence that the will of the people has somehow been perverted, and that the establishment is incapable of recognizing the need for change.
Among the voters who see politics from this perspective—which, lest we forget, represent between a third and a half of the population, depending on which poll you look at—a Clinton victory will not breathe fresh life and confidence into mainstream politics. Instead, it will lead to political disenchantment and the sense that the system doesn’t work. The long-term consequences of these trends will not be a Republican Party shift back towards the center, but the rise of a fresh cohort of rabble-rousing leaders in the Trump mold, determined to promote their own profile by challenging the status quo.
One of the by-products of this approach is to tarnish the whole electoral process in the minds of Trump supporters.
Democracy relies on the support of both elites and the wider population for a shared set of key principles, such as mutual respect, rule following, and the willingness to keep defending the political systems, even after defeat. There is nothing about a Trump defeat that would strengthen any of these values. The focus of much analysis of the negative impact of a Trump presidency therefore misses the point: American democracy is likely to take a beating on Nov. 8, no matter who wins.